Wyoming Legislative Coverage

Wyoming Public Radio will bring you coverage of the 2020 legislative session. Read and listen to our coverage from the session. You can also follow our coverage on Twitter using the hashtag #wyleg.

The 2020 Budget Session begins February 10th.

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This week, Gov. Mark Gordon started addressing Wyoming's $1.5 billion shortfalls with $250 million in budget cuts.

The cuts are due to the economic fallout from COVID-19 and a sudden drop in energy prices. Gordon has said he would like to see cuts, reserves, and some new revenue sources used together to address the shortfall, but that remains difficult.

Bob Beck

  

Some notable legislators lost their seats in last night's Wyoming Primary, many were targets of a conservative arm of the Republican Party. 

Bob Beck

Tuesday, August 18 is Wyoming's primary election, and while there is a race for the state's open U.S. Senate seat, more interesting races surround the attempt by the conservative arm of the state Republican party to gain power in the legislature. Nick Reynolds of the Casper Star Tribune joined Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck to discuss this.

Rig count in Wyoming over the past year
Y Chart

The legislature's Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development Committee voted in favor of sponsoring a bill they hope will incentivize new oil and gas production in the state.

Petroleum Association of Wyoming

There are currently only two oil and gas rigs operating in the state right now, down from 30 last year. The Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development Committee approved the drafting of two bills to help the industry, whose downturn will severely hurt the state's revenue picture.

Jimmy Emerson, DVM via https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Wyoming legislators were told that state revenue projections are down $1.5 billion from January led by a huge drop in projected oil prices. 

The state legislature's Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee met this week to discuss revenue issues facing the state's transportation department.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) presented a potential solution to its revenue shortfall: a road user charge. That's when drivers, both commercial and personal, pay a fee for the miles they drive on state roads and highways. Several states, including some in our region, are working on similar ideas.

Surgical Face Mask by NurseTogether is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Gov. Mark Gordon updated the state on the recent legislation lawmakers passed during last week's special session.

Gordon praised the legislature's ability to work effectively in determining how and when to spend federal CARES Act funding. He said he will be signing the three bills that passed.

WYDOT

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) will be meeting with the legislature's Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Committee this week.

Several members of the Joint Minerals Committee meeting over Zoom for the first time before the Special Session
Wyoming Legislature Youtube

The Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development Interim Committee amended a bill that will determine how federal relief funds will eventually reach Wyoming businesses. Among other changes, the committee decided to double the allotted funds from $25 million to $50 million available.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Wyoming legislative leaders have been told the state may face revenue declines between $555 million to $2.8 billion as a result of the coronavirus.

Bob Beck

Over the years there's been a conflict between news, advocacy organizations and members of the public versus government agencies when it comes to documents and information. Many times these issues go to court. In an effort to make all sides play better together, the legislature created the position of Ombudsman to settle these disputes. Ruth Van Mark joins Bob Beck to discuss her role in the state.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming Legislature wrapped up its work this week with concerns about the future. A downturn in oil prices and worries about a drop in investment income has lawmakers thinking that they may need to make some difficult decisions in the not-too-distant future.

www.nrel.gov

There were only six bills centered on renewables this session, but you'd be forgiven to think there were many more. Even when it wasn't the topic of conversation, renewables were on lawmaker's minds.

Savannah Maher

During the legislative session, Representative Andi Clifford's days start before dawn. So, when her friend Representative Sara Burlingame picks her up from her hotel early on a February morning, the first thing on their agenda is getting caffeinated.

WyoFile/Flickr Creative Commons

County Clerks in Wyoming could soon be required by state law to accept tribal ID cards for voter registration, provided the ID lists the applicant's driver's license number or last four digits of their social security number.

Associated Press

The State Senate has passed a bill that sets up a process for legislators to review the school funding model and take a close look at education requirements.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Declining oil prices, a lack of substantial budget cuts, and concerns spending reserves dominated discussion as the Wyoming House and Senate gave final approval to its two-year budget.

A few of the changes in an amendment adopted by the Senate
Legislative Service Office

An amended bill to move ad valorem tax payments from an 18-month to a monthly schedule has passed its first hurdle on the Senate floor.

Ad valorem taxes are a property tax paid to counties from mineral companies. Wyoming is currently missing out on about $130 million in delinquent ad valorem taxes, according to the Wyoming County Commissioners Association. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

The Wyoming Senate is scheduled to debate a bill today to set up a gaming commission who will determine how to regulate the growth in video gambling in the state.

Wyoming State Senator Affie Ellis.
LINDSAY LINTON BUK

Cheyenne Senator Affie Ellis successfully added an amendment to include more non-politicians in discussions over how Wyoming spends its education money.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A state capital construction bill received final approval from the Wyoming House, setting the stage for a conference committee that will focus on what the University of Wyoming will get. 

Bob Beck

The Wyoming Legislature will be undertaking what is called a recalibration of its school funding system. It's a process where lawmakers look at what they require of educators and the state is paying enough for education. But for the first time since it was developed, the committee will study what is in Wyoming's basket of goods. Those are the skills and content areas students are required to learn, such as math and science.

Online GIS Maps; Cooper McKim

Wyoming legislators are working through two bills that would lay the groundwork to study and potentially buy over a million acres of land and four million acres of mineral rights across the southern part of the state.

The 1,010,900 acres of land in question sits within six Wyoming counties: Lincoln, Uinta, Carbon, Albany, Laramie, and Sweetwater. Local officials are beginning to grapple with the potential risks and rewards of the deal.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Both the Wyoming House and Senate began discussing the possible purchase of a million acres of surface land and four million acres of mineral rights. Legislative leaders said the goal is to establish ground rules that could make such a purchase possible. 

Wyoming Legislature logo
Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming Legislature has high hopes of debating some gaming bills this session including the establishment of a new gaming commission.

Bob Beck

Wyoming lawmakers continue working on a bill that would allow the state to look into purchasing a million acres of land in southern Wyoming.  

The swath of one million acres of land in southern Wyoming is currently owned by Occidental Petroleum and doesn't include any private or federal land.

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming lawmakers are still looking for ways to pay for education funding. A variety of tax proposals have been rejected and the long term forecast shows a major deficit in funds used for education.

The proposed site for the Millennium Bulk Terminals in Washington State. Wyoming has pushed to open a port in the U.S. with distance from a port in Canada
Millennium Bulk Terminals - Longview

The House Revenue Committee went back and forth over a bill that looks to incentivize coal exports, voting 5 to 3 to move the bill forward.

House Bill 231, Coal Severance Tax Exemption - Canadian and Mexican Ports, is one of three bills with the goal of boosting exports this session along with the Wyoming Coal Marketing Program and Exportation of mineral resources. Both look to appropriate funds to expand Wyoming's coal markets. The former has already passed out of the House.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming Legislature has been meeting for a couple of weeks now and it seems very similar to past sessions. There's not going to be tax increases, there's a lot of talk about budget cutting, but hardly any real cuts are underway. This despite the fact that revenue projections remain dire.

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